Mozambique’s president, Filipe Nyusi, on Wednesday said Islamic State-linked insurgents had been forced out of Palma, a key northern town that the rebels hit in a brazen raid last month.
In his first substantive public comment on the attack, Nyusi said “the terrorists have been chased from Palma,” but added: “We do not declare victory, because we are fighting terrorism.”
Nyusi — speaking on the eve of a regional summit on the crisis — said his government had made requests for help. He did not give details.
“Our government has already expressed its needs to the international community to deal with terrorism. This international support… is being evaluated,” he said, in an address to mark Mozambique’s national women’s day.
“Those who come from outside will not come to replace us. They will come to support us. It is not about empty pride. It is about a sense of sovereignty.”
Insurgents seized Palma, a coastal town close to a multi-billion-dollar liquid natural gas (LNG) project, after a coordinated attack launched on March 24.
They then vandalized a hospital and torched banks and a prosecutor’s office, state television TVM said at the weekend.
The assault claimed dozens of lives, according to the authorities, while the UN’s refugee agency says more than 11,000 were forced to flee.
The French energy giant Total has pulled out all its staff from the LNG plant, viewed as a cornerstone project for the Mozambican economy.
Nyusi vowed the government would “overcome terrorism” and said the government was working to upgrade training and equipment for its military.
Six southern African presidents are to meet in the Mozambican capital Maputo on Thursday for emergency talks on the crisis and “deliberate on measures to address terrorism.”
The Southern African Development Community (SADC) announced on Tuesday that the presidents of Mozambique, Malawi, Tanzania, Botswana, South Africa, and Zimbabwe will attend.
The assault is the latest in a string of more than 830 jihadist attacks since 2017 that have killed more than 2,600 people and forced more than 750,000 others from their homes, according to estimates.
Nyusi repeated his offer of an amnesty to Mozambicans who have joined the jihadists’ ranks.
“To those who have lost their way and ended up on the side of the terrorists, we call on them to return. We are ready to receive you and reintegrate you into society, ” he said.